US fudges on timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

US fudges on timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

US says no timeline for Syria withdrawal as fighting continues

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters that has largely fought the ground operations against ISIS in Syria, is increasing concerned about their future after US President Donald Trump's decision to remove American troops from Syria last month.

Some 2,000 U.S. military personnel are reported to be in Syria although the real numbers could be higher.

The Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG) said that two British soldiers were badly wounded in an attack by ISIS.

The administration's abrupt announcement last month, which took officials in Washington and allies by surprise, contributed to James Mattis' decision to resign as USA defence secretary and prompted concern that ISIS could stage a comeback.

The pullout announcedon December 19 was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of US Congress for a more orderly withdrawal.

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Bolton was due to hold talks later on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the discussions would focus on Iran's role in the region and the situation in Syria. Three other foreign fighters were caught as well: two men from Pakistan and one from Ireland, the news outlet reported. "I never said we're doing it that quickly". "But we are decimating ISIS", Trump told reporters, using a different acronym for IS.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Israel was particularly concerned about the presence of Iranian-backed militias near its border with Syria, "particularly that of Hezbollah", a Lebanese Shia movement.

Separately on Friday, the US-led coalition said it carried out 469 strikes in Syria between Dec 16 and Dec 29 that destroyed almost 300 fighting positions, more than 150 staging areas, and a number of supply routes, oil lubricant storage facilities and equipment.

"There is absolutely no change in the United States position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we've done twice before", Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Bolton said the US wants its Kurdish allies in Syria protected from any planned Turkish offensive - a warning to be delivered to Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Mr Trump said: 'We have defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency'.

Asked whether a US withdrawal would not take place in Syria until Turkey guaranteed the Kurdish fighters would be safe, Bolton said: "Basically, that's right".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that Moscow had "irrefutable" evidence that an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged with the help of a foreign secret service in April shortly before the USA coalition bombed targets near Damascus.

Bolton, who will travel to Turkey on Monday, said the United States will talk to Ankara to find out what its objectives and capabilities are.

Smith added: "I'm pleased that John Bolton has recognised the national security interest, and that's what we want to have. not a tweet going "Eh, let's get out of Syria".

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Bolton also was to convey the message that the United States will be "very supportive" of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton's plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

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